EPLC Education Notebook
Monday, October 2, 2006
Tuesday, October 10
Last Day to Register to Vote before the November Election
Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity
- The Senate passed legislation last week
Senate Bill 1209) that establishes a grant program
for kindergarten classrooms in public and private schools to offer
nutritional and agriculture education programs. The Healthy
Farms and Healthy Schools Program also is designed to
benefit Pennsylvania farmers by exposing students and their
families to locally grown nutritional foods. SB 1209 has been
referred to the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
- On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee
passed amended versions of the following legislation. Both bills
have been re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee:
Senate Bill 71: Requires all school entities to adopt
policies related to bullying or to amend their
code of student conduct to include consequences for bullying.
The policies or code of conduct also may provide for bullying
prevention, intervention and education programs. SB 71 does not
require schools that already have such policies to adopt a new
policy, however, it requires schools to review the policy every
three years. The bill also allows the Office for Safe Schools to
make grants to schools for developing and implementing bullying
prevention programs as part of the targeted grants the Office is
currently authorized to make.
Senate Bill 1332: Makes numerous changes to the Public
School Code related to school health services.
SB 1332 requires schools to ensure that students undergo a physical
exam within one year prior to entering school, one year before or
during fifth grade, one year before or during ninth grade, and prior
to being issued an employment certificate. If a student is not
examined by a primary care provider before the deadline set by the
school district, the district must schedule an examination for the
child with a qualified health professional designated by the district.
SB 1332 also requires children to visit the dentist within one year
prior to starting school, one year before or during third grade,
and one year before or during seventh grade. If a child does not
undergo a dental exam, the district must schedule an exam for the
child with a school dentist. Parents must be notified and invited
to attend physical or dental exams scheduled by the district for
their child. SB 1332 also addresses procedures for students who
have or are suspected of having communicable diseases, health
examination requirements for school employees, and tuberculosis
and communicable disease evaluations for school volunteers.
- The Senate Education Committee held a public
hearing Wednesday on legislation that would establish an
Independent Higher Education and Community Financing
Program within the Department of Community and Economic
Senate Bill 307, nonprofit independent colleges and universities could apply for bonds on a first-come first-served basis to support projects related to community and economic development. Institutions would apply to a five-member Board of Review appointed by the Governor and House and Senate caucus leaders.
Don Francis, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, said the legislation is needed to support the Commonwealth's 94 private institutions, many of which are critical to the economy of the rural communities in which they are located, and to "re-balance the playing field for higher education" following the Operation Jumpstart initiative implement by former Governor Casey. Operation Jumpstart made investments in capital infrastructure at State System of Higher Education and state-related universities as long as the universities provided matching funds, prompting these universities to engage in private fundraising, which some did for the first time and all now conduct proficiently. The advent of public universities' capital fundraising campaigns has resulted "in fewer dollars to support the private sector's capital needs" as they compete with the same local businesses and foundations. Francis told Committee members that such fundraising combined with continued state investment in public universities' capital needs "can overwhelm the ability of many of our private colleges and universities to compete with the public sector" if policymakers are not careful. Maryland, New Jersey and New York have put in place programs to assist private colleges and universities with their capital needs. Additionally, Francis said the funding is needed to help the colleges stay competitive in attracting out-of-state students, most of whom come from MD, NJ or NY.
The Committee also heard from the presidents of Widener University, Neumann College, Susquehanna University and a representative of Gettysburg College about the positive impact such a financing authority would have both for their institutions and the surrounding communities. Neumann President Rosalie Mirenda also spoke to the disparate fundraising capacity among private institutions, with relatively new colleges like hers that have "a very young alumni base comprised mostly of nurses and educators" having a harder time raising funds than more established institutions.
Additionally, representatives of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (SSHE), which would not receive funding through SB 307, appeared before the Committee to speak about its capital needs. The State System has approximately $1.3 billion in deferred maintenance needs for its academic buildings and an additional $1 billion in deferred maintenance for auxiliary structures such as residence halls and dining halls (SSHE does not currently use state funds to support these auxiliary structures). The System projects it should be investing over $100 million a year to maintain its academic and administrative facilities in their current condition; since 2000, the System has received $65 million annually from the state for this purpose. For more information, contact the office of Committee Chair James Rhoades at (717) 787-2637.
Other Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity
- On Wednesday, the Legislative Budget and Finance
Committee held an informational hearing on the
costs to Pennsylvania's economy from starting school
before Labor Day. The Committee previously contracted
an economic impact study with Tripp Umbach, a Pittsburg-based firm,
which found that starting school after the September holiday could
have an aggregate $426 million impact on the state's economy.
The impact stems from recovering lost tourism revenue (the second
largest industry in the state), income from extending students'
and teachers' summer jobs, reduced child care costs (because
child care tends to be less expensive during the summer than
during the school year), and reduced costs of operating schools
during the week prior to Labor Day. As a solution, the report
proposes an eight minute extension of the school day, which would
allow districts to eliminate three days from the school year. To
implement this proposal, the state would need to change the school
code to require that districts provide 900 hours of instructional
time, rather than 180 days of instruction. The school day
extension is estimated to save approximately $105.4 million in
districts' annual operating costs. Access the report at
- Auditor General Jack Wagner released performance audits
of the State Employees' Retirement System (SERS) and the Public
School Employee's Retirement System (PSERS) last week.
The reviews found that "neither plan was fully funded at the end
of last year". Assets for both pension funds declined from being
more than 100% funded in 2002 "because of stock market losses and
a 2001 decision by the General Assembly to increase employee
retirement benefits while not addressing employer contributions".
If action is not taken, the plans' current $11 billion shortfall
(with PSERS accounting for about $9 billion of the shortfall) will
begin to grow by 2012 when significant retirements are expected.
The Auditor General recommends five steps the Governor and General
Assembly should consider: 1) impose a moratorium on adding new
retirement benefits until the pension funds' shortfalls are fixed;
2) return the vesting period to 10 years, from five years, for new
hires; 3) identify other sources of revenue to help fund pension
costs; 4) establish a rainy day fund that would make contributions
to the pension funds during years of budget surpluses; and, 5)
enact legislation that requires the Commonwealth to make annual
contributions to SERS beyond 2007. The reviews also found that
both funds are "managed effectively and professionally" and make
some suggestions for improving administration. Copies of each
audit are available at
- The Transfer and Articulation Oversight Committee,
created by Act 114 of 2006 and tasked with identifying foundation courses that can be universally transferred between public institutions of higher education when students move from one college to another, met Wednesday. The Committee currently is working to develop equivalency standards for foundation courses. For more information, contact PDE at (717) 787-5041.
Information about the Pennsylvania General Assembly, including
details on contacting your local state representatives and locating
bills cited in this Notebook, is available at
- This Week...The Legislative Budget and Finance
Committee meets Tuesday to discuss awarding a contract
for a study of school district consolidation. The House
Finance Committee meets Tuesday to consider House Bill
2308, related to earned income tax collection. EPLC hosts a
Pennsylvania Education Policy Forum - Capital Breakfast
Series on Wednesday. EPLC's Pennsylvania
Education Policy Fellowship Program meets Friday. For information on these and other upcoming
- The Education Policy and Leadership Center will honor
Karl Girton, Chair of the Pennsylvania State
Board of Education, with the Edward Donley Education Policy
Leadership Award on Wednesday, October 18. The Center's
annual Awards Dinner also will recognize with the EPLC
Partner Award the Laboratory for Student Success
at Temple University Center for Research in Human Development and
Education and the Pennsylvania Association of School
Administrators. EPLC also will recognize alumni of its
leadership development programs. The EPLC Leadership
Program Alumni Award will be presented to Diane
Castelbuono (1999-2000 Education Policy Fellowship Program),
William R. Adams, Jr. (2001-2002 Pittsburgh ICLE) and
Daniel Fogarty (2002-2003 Lehigh Valley ICLE).
For more information about the 2006 Education Policy Leadership
Awards Dinner, see
- Save the Dates...EPLC will host the 2006 Pennsylvania
Education Finance Symposium on Thursday and Friday, November 16-17, 2006 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Harrisburg.
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